Friday, September 20, 2019

Trios élégiaques

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from 
14 March 2014It can be heard or downloaded from 
the Internet Archive at



In programming our Friday montages in the context of Project 366, I decided that weeks where I have programmed a past montage, I will simply refresh my musing accompanying the podcast. We will issue new podcasts on Fridays where the Project has programmed a Tuesday blog or OTF share.
This is the first week since we started Project 366 and daily shares, so the first opportunity to revisit a past montage.

Two of the three works featured in this 2014 montage is a pair of trios performed by the Rachmaninoff Trio “de Montréal” – supposedly not to be confused other Rachmaninoff trios of which I found at least two others – one was formed in 1999 featuring cellist Robert Cafaro and violinist Dmitri Levinand, both members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and renowned concert pianist Luba Agranovsky. Another – featured in the video playlist nelow, is made up of pianist Eugene Feigin, violinist Tatiana Feigin and cellist  Jacek Gebczynski.

The montage originally featured the first movement of Rachmaninov’s Trio, op. 9 – his Elegiac trio – with a backward reference to a Once Upon the Internet share where we provided the performance in its entirety. As part of this week’s refresh, I included a complete performance by the Feigin/Gebczynski version of the Rachmaninoff trio, recorded in 1988 at Southeast Louisiana University.

In researching trio performances for this post, I found several recordings that pair-up the opus 9 trio with another Elegiac trio by Rachmaniinov. This work is cast in only one movement, in contrast to most piano trios, which have three or four. This movement is in the classical form of a sonata, but the exposition is built on twelve episodes that are symmetrically represented in the recapitulation. The elegiac theme is presented in the first part Lento lugubre by the piano. In the following parts, the elegy is presented by the cello and violin, while the spirit is constantly evolving (più vivo - con anima - appassionato - tempo rubato - risoluto). The theme is ultimately recast as a funeral march.
The 1988 recording featured below is one such pairing.

The remainder of the montage features the Montreal version of the Rachmaninoff trio in their debut album, for ATMA Classique in the Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich trios.

I think you will (still) love this music too.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Wilhelm Kempff & Beethoven

No. 323 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.


As we resume our survey of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas, we have four more instalments planned in the Friday Blog and Podcast. These four montages will be of the format “sonata and concerto” featuring a single pianist. This format was used inm the past for the fourth and fifth piano concerto augmented with the Moonlight, Hammerklavier and Pastoral sonatas.

This week’s pianist, Wilhelm Kempff, has famously recorded the complete cuycle of Beethoven sonatas manty times, most notably twice in the fifteen year span between 1951 and 1965 for the DG label – once in mono, the other in stereo. Today I am featuring two sonatas (the Pathétique and Waldstein) from that second “stereo” cycle. Recorded when he was in his mid-60s, this is the third and final time he recorded the complete cycle. I must admit that the reviews I’ve read of both the mono and stereo cycles (contemporaneous to each other) appears to have divided the aficionados. Some prefer the intimacy created in the first set (in particular the digitally remastered re-issue from the mid-1990s), others like the full stereo sound and projection of the latter set. We can all agree that Kempff has a vision of the sonatas that is distinctive and (dare I say) almost regal in its projection.

Same goes with the piano concerti; Kempff's 1953 Berlin cycle with Paul van Kempen has long been a collectors' item, often preferred to Kempff's famous 1960s Berlin Philharmonic/Leitner set, also on DG. Apart from Kempff's whimsical though not ineffective line in home-grown cadenzas, these are exemplary performances in matters of style and execution.

From the 1060’s set, today’s First Concerto displays the right balance of wit, glitter and dash. The stereo sound (digitally remastered) is second to none. The one-two punch of the first and second concerti (the latter featured on our next montage with a different performer) may be early in the composer’s catalog, but they do show us more than passing glimpses of Beethoven’s ingenuity for both the orchestra and the soloist.

I think you will love this music too

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Berlioz, Sir Colin Davis, Staatskapelle Dresden ‎– Overtures

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

This week we resume our Tuesday Blog post-summer hiatus with a Cover 2 Cover playlist that serves as our Berlioz Year contribution, marking as many did the 150th anniversary of the composer’s death.

Berlioz’s compositions represent the epitome of the romantic period, sometimes with epic works, sometimes with works that explore the complexity of human emotions – most notably his own struggles within his relationships. No doubt, the short set of overtures proposed today put all of this in full display.

Among the most renowned defenders of the Berlioz repertoire, outside of the conductors and interpreters raised in the French musical tradition, we can count on Sir Colin Davis. According to the excellent Hector Berlioz website Davis discovered Berlioz independently for himself, and went on to develop his own distinctive approach to the composer and his music. The discovery began in 1951, when as a professional clarinetist Davis played in a performance of La Fuite en Égypte conducted by Roger Desormière. One of his early concerts to feature music by Berlioz was given at the Royal Festival Hall on 16 April 1959, when he conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra in an excerpt from Roméo et Juliette. In the early 1960s he conducted La Damnation de Faust, Roméo and concert performances of Les Troyens and Benvenuto Cellini with the amateur Chelsea Opera Group. Since those early years of his career as a conductor, Sir Colin has been a champion of Berlioz at home and abroad; he has conducted and recorded more performances of Berlioz than any previous conductor. His Berlioz cycle of recordings with Philips includes almost all the works of the composer that require a conductor, except for a number of shorter vocal works, and many of these he has recorded more than once (for example, many of the Berlioz overtures heard on today’s playlist were part of that early LSO/Philips cycle, and some were later redone with the same orchestra in the 2000’s on their LSO Live label).

In my personal record collection, I own a pair of recordings featuring Davis conducting Berlioz with Staatskapelle Dresden – this one and a performance of the Requiem Mass which I once featured on a Friday montage a few years back.
The playlist ios made up of both concert overtures (like the Roman Carnival and the Corsair) and some overtures to larger woirs (like Beatrice and Benedict and Benvenuto Cellini). Missing, I’m afraid, is the Rob Roy overture – which was also missing from the earlier LSO set. As usual, the Dresden orchestra shines as a fine instrument under Sir Colin’s very capable hands.


Label: RCA Red Seal ‎– 82876-65839 2, BMG Classics ‎– 82876-65839 2
Series: RCA Red Seal Classic Library –
Format: CD, Reissue, Remastered

Discogs -

Friday, September 6, 2019

British Choral Works

No. 322 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.

The musical life of Britain would be different in many ways if it were not for the British choral tradition: it is nourished as much by the music of renaissance Italy, baroque Germany, Enlightenment Austria or Romantic Russia as British music.

There’s something so special about the sound of singing voices, whether big or small in number and whether with accompaniment or a cappella. It’s a practice that has its origins in medieval monastic foundations, in which boys and lay singers joined the regular monks as they observed their religious duties.

Today’s Blog and Podcast, earmarked for re-use as an instalment of Once or Twice aFortnight on OperaLively, showcases three Twentieth Century choral works by British composers.

The two first works works are also contemporaneous to each other, spanning the years between 1906 and 1911.

Ralph Vaughan WilliamsFive Mystical Songs, written between 1906 and 1911 sets four poems ("Easter" divided into two parts) by seventeenth-century Welsh-born English poet and Anglican priest George Herbert (1593–1633), from his 1633 collection The Temple: Sacred Poems.
Like Herbert's simple verse, the songs are fairly direct, but have the same intrinsic spirituality as the original text. They were supposed to be performed together, as a single work, but the styles of each vary quite significantly. The final "Antiphon" is probably the most different of all: a triumphant hymn of praise is also sometimes performed on its own, as a church anthem for choir and organ: "Let all the world in every corner sing".

Vaughan Williams considered himself an atheist at the time (he later settled into a "cheerful agnosticism"), though this did not prevent his setting of verse of an overtly religious inspiration.

Songs of Sunset, written in 1906-07, is a work by Frederick Delius after eight poems by Ernest Dowson (1867 –1900). The work was first performed on 16 June 1911 at an all-Delius concert in the presence of the composer, conducted by his great champion Thomas Beecham – Beecham is also leading the forces on today’s featured performance.

In marked contrast to the religious works which were the staple of choral festivals at the time, Songs of Sunset still bears the seeds of controversy. After conducting a performance by its dedicatees, the Elberfeld Choral Society, Delius' German champion, Hans Haym, wrote that "this is not a work for a wide public, but rather for a smallish band of musical isolates who are born decadents and life's melancholics."

The final work today was composed about a quarter of a century later than the first pair. Belshazzar's feast (based on chapter 5 in the Book of Daniel) tells how Belshazzar holds a great feast and drinks from the vessels that had been looted in the destruction of the First Temple. A hand appears and writes on the wall. The terrified Belshazzar calls for his wise men, but they are unable to read the writing. The queen advises him to send for Daniel, renowned for his wisdom. Daniel reminds Belshazzar that his father Nebuchadnezzar, when he became arrogant, was thrown down until he learned that God has sovereignty over the kingdom of men. Belshazzar had likewise blasphemed God, and so God sent this hand. Daniel then reads the message and interprets it: God has numbered Belshazzar's days, he has been weighed and found wanting, and his kingdom will be given to the Medes and the Persians.

This story is the basis for the cantata of the same name by William Walton. It was first performed at the Leeds Festival on 8 October 1931, and the work has remained one of Walton's most celebrated compositions. Osbert Sitwell selected the text from the Bible, primarily the Book of Daniel, and Psalm 137.

At first the work seemed avant-garde because of its extrovert writing and musical complexity; it is however always firmly tonal although it is scored without a key signature and with many accidentals. The addition of the brass bands was suggested by the festival director, Thomas Beecham; the bands were on hand anyway for a performance of Berlioz’s Requiem, and Beecham said to the young Walton: "As you'll never hear the thing again, my boy, why not throw in a couple of brass bands?". However, it was an immediate success, despite its severe challenges to the chorus.

This final performance comes from my Vinyl collection, and features the Halle orchestra and chorus.

I think you will love this music too